The first section of the page includes video taken in 2007 on a farm not far south of Tsumeb. Unfortunately the
video is very poor quality and I am hoping to revisit the area and film again in the near future. The films do at least
give an indication of the sort of folk dances undertaken by the Hai//om. Not surprisingly a number of the songs and
dances they performed were versions of those I had seen previously in Sesfontein amongst the Damara. Other
dances will be added shortly.
The second section contains a sample of healing dances from north Namibian KhoeSan taken in 2001.
The first video concerns a 'show' healing dance. The event raises interesting questions that I hope to pursue with
the dancers in the near future - did the 'healer' actually know how to heal? It seems he is very familiar with the
nuances of being a healer including the dance movements, the sucking, calling out and styalised 'trance' collapse.
If he has not healed, might he try if times got desperate? How does his dance relate to ideas of potency? Is this
sort of dancing the way healing dances might be heading for many Bushmen? It is interesting to comare this to Paul
Hawabeb's healing dance which is undertaken to the same song (see below)
The way the boy 'patient' is chosen to lie down and be healed is a an example of an actual mechanism of
informal teaching / learning. This staging of a healing dance hints at processes of transformation.
In the next dance the lead male dancer is the same as in the previous dance and he brings much of the
healing dance into this different setting. I am intrigued whether this represents his style or a much wider
found phenomenon. It would be very interesting to try and pin down how popular dance might shape
The next section contains excerpts from a film I made in 2001 for the Ninth International Conference
on Hunting and Gathering Societies, Edinburgh.
The first excerpt is the introduction followed by a Damara arus. Very little has been written about the
arus, or Damara healing dance. The dance concerns people with the "rain spirit" or /nanu ╪oab.
Strong healers receive the spirit by being struck by lightning. The blind elderly healer in the film had
been struck by lightning a number of times. (See Low DPhil on homepage for more information)
The second extract involves a self styled Herero / Damara witchdoctor who lives with his Himba wives near
Uis Mine. In 2001 Mathew the witchdoctor held what was known as a "Batoma" on the last Friday of each
month. People drove from all over Namibia and beyond to attend the Batoma. They arrived singularly and
in small minibus loads, arriving on the Thursday and many staying until Sunday afternoon. On Friday
afternoon Mathew gathered everyone into a circle, stood in the middle and went round the ring telling each
person why they had come and what they had done. To attend the circle the women were not allowed to
wear red underwear and nobody was allowed to have money in their pocket. It was a strange feeling when
he pointed to people and accused them of murdering their spouse or neighbour and they would agree. It
was a stranger feeling when he pointed at me and everybody turned round to see me filming, as Mathew
cast further words at me in Herero. I had asked his permission and he was very happy for me to film.
Nonetheless this sudden attention left me feeling very vulnerable. I had previously asked Mathew if he
could teach me to become a witchdoctor. He said that he could for about $1500 Namibian dollars. We
would have to go off together for four days into the bush up at the Kunene river. There I would have to
swim the river, be eaten by a crocodile and be boiled in a pot on the other side. Then I could see. Now, it
sounds like he was taunting the white ingenue, and he may well have been, but across the Khoisan and
beyond there is a regional idiom in which people are stabbed or otherwise attacked or killed but it is not
physically apparent. He meant what he said and was talking in metaphor, but I strongly suspected the
metaphor would be too close to the reality. I politely declined the offer .
Following the circular gathering Mathew set up a consultation hut where he say with a mirror and a baboon
skull. People came in and out of the hut for hours,negotiating the cost of their salvation, be it love charms
or losing police reports.
On Friday evening a fire was lit and everybody gathered round. After a few hours Mathew's extended family
began to sing the "Batoma" . Dressed in his robes Mathew went around the circle stopping to focus on
individuals and to incant between singing and solemnly waving his arms and the baboon skull, clutched in
his hand. Periodically participants fled from the circle into the darkness. The ritual was finalised after about
two and a half hours by a small number of participants being told to kneel on the ground. A goatskin was
placed over them, the baboon skull was proffered to their heads and more words said and sung. After half
an hour or so they stood up and the skins were removed to be buried in the daylight. The following day the
participants started to leave.
The third film features the Hai//om healer Paul Hawabeb. Details about Paul are covered elsewhere on
the site. Paul
This dance was held for some local people with very pressing health concerns. The pot passed under the
nose of those participating contains burning fragrance sâi. Sâi is related to buchu in its role as a potent
perfume with transforative powers